Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mrs. Luckie: Killed by Lightning

This scrapbook entitled “Mortuary of Lexington, Kentucky” and compiled by General John M. McCalla (1793-1873), consists of funeral notices and obituaries printed in local Lexington newspapers from 1803-1869.
2013ms0755: John M. McCalla "Mortuary of Lexington, Kentucky" scrapbook
Scrapbooks are an often unloved historical format, but this mortuary depicts a snapshot of Lexington social life and the treatment of death in the nineteenth century. Additionally, it documents various newsworthy events through its marginalia.  
Numerous funeral notices have notes written in ink or pencil. For example, this one from 1817 is a notice for the funeral of Mrs. Jane Luckie. The marginalia reads “Killed by lightning at the Presbyterian Church”.
These funeral notices from 1829 document a famous Lexington duel between Charles Wickliffe and George J. Trotter. The duel has its roots in the acquittal of Charles Wickliffe for the murder of Thomas R. Benning, editor of the Kentucky Gazette. Wickliffe shot Benning during a disagreement over editorials, which criticized his father, politician Robert Wickliffe. Henry Clay acted as Wickliffe’s lawyer during his trial. Later that same year, Wickliffe challenged the new editor of the newspaper, George J. Trotter, to a duel over articles questioning the fairness of the trial. During the duel Trotter killed Wickliffe on the second shot.
The mortuary contains the funeral notice for Thomas R. Benning with the marginalia “Killed by Charles Wickliffe” and the notice for Charles Wickliffe annotated with “Killed in a duel with G.J. Trotter.”
Lastly, this 1844 funeral notice for Caroline Turner notes that she was “murdered by her slave”. Caroline Sargent Turner, wife of the Honorable Fielding L. Turner, was notorious for beating her slaves. She was found strangled in her home in 1844. After fleeing, one of her slaves, Richard Moore, was apprehended in Scott County, tried, and hanged for her murder.

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